Progress and Challenges Highlight Union Pacific's Diversity Efforts

By Debra Schrampfer, AVP & Chief Diversity Officer

Large | Progress and Challenges Highlight UP's Diversity Efforts

As the nation hopes to recover after two years of battling COVID-19, its workforce continues to feel the pandemic’s impact. Part of that is a thin job market with a different gender makeup than we’ve experienced in recent history. Last week the U.S. Department of Labor released data indicating that women lagged men returning to the workforce, with men’s participation rate up 70% in January vs. a women’s rate of only 58%.

Through this unprecedented environment, Union Pacific strives to reach its aggressive 2030 diversity goals, increasing our people of color population from 29.4% to 40% and doubling our female population to 11%.

Progress toward these goals was outlined in our just-released 2021 Human Capital Report, titled “We Are One.” From January 2020 to December 2021, Union Pacific increased its people of color population 29.4% to 31.3%, which puts us on track to reach our 40% goal.

However, the railroad’s female population slightly decreased from 5.5% in 2020 to 5.3% in December 2021. Union Pacific is not alone. Across the country, female representation in America’s workforce is at its lowest since 1988.

While we’ve moved back up a tenth of a point since the end of the year, that doesn’t resolve the hurdles in front of us. Most news media point to child-care related issues as among the biggest challenges facing women in the post-COVID era. While that issue indeed impacts us, Union Pacific faces additional unique challenges.

The majority of our operating jobs are traditionally held by men, which requires us to broaden our recruiting perspective and modernize our culture. Some of our collective bargaining agreements that shape lifestyles is not conducive to women who commonly are still the primary caregiver in American families. And union seniority that protects workers’ employment (a good thing) also limits the speed of change to infuse women into the Operating Department, the largest group in our company.

Those are not excuses. Those are challenges to be overcome. At the heart of our efforts is to expand our reach to candidates who reflect the communities we serve, to follow hiring practices that extract bias and stereotypes, and to build an inclusive environment that retains our talented employees. All of this is built on a foundation of hiring and promoting the best candidate for the job.

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